A lightweight presence, RWD, a stick shift and a punchy N/A four-cylinder engine. These are all attributes shared between the 2022 Toyota GR86 and its 1980s ancestor, the AE86. Nevertheless, ever since the previous decade brought along the GT 86 direct predecessor of the present sportscar, some fans have been asking for even more commonalities. One way Toyota has answered this is by leveraging on the pop culture icon status of the AE86 and lending its Initial D manga/anime presence to the 2022 model via a dedicated campaign. And now an independent artist has taken the connection even further by giving the GR86 an all-out Initial D makeover.
The street racing fictional universe that is Initial D was created by writer and illustrator Shuichi Shigeno back in 1995. It builds a story around Takumi Fujiwara, a student spending his days as a gas station attendant, but not before delivering tofu for his father’s store in the early hours of the morning, all behind the wheel of a no-longer-fresh Toyota Sprinter Trueno (more on this below).
You can proably see where this is going already, with the whole operation turning to some serious hooning, mostly on mountain roads based on real locations in the Land of the Rising Sun.
It’s worth noting that professional racer and drifting pioneer Keiichi Tsuchiya lent his expertise to the Initial D world, while the story was also developed into animes.
Breaking down the 1980s Toyota AE86 family
Returning to the real world for a brief moment, we’ll mention that alongside the Corolla Levin, the Sprinter Trueno stands for the AE86 series Toyota built between 1983 and 1987—this is also called Hachi-Roku (eighty-six in Japanese).
And while both models were offered in hatchback and coupe form, the simplest way to distinguish them is by comparing the headlights (pop-ups for the Sprinter Trueno and conventional units for the Corolla Levin).
Pop-up headlights for the 2022 Toyota GR86? Yes, please!
While the second video below brings a slice of the Toyota campaign mentioned in the intro, displaying a short animation that sees Takumi Fujiwara’s AE86 being chased by an anime version of Keiichi Tsuchiya and the GR86, we’re mainly here for the first clip.
The animation delivers an Initial D transformation for the 2022 Toyota GR86. And while we’ve seen this sort of stunt before, albeit in static form, the main novelty here is that the AE86 integration goes well past the side graphics or the color scheme.
Up front, we have pop-up headlights, while the car now sports a front bumper mixing the 2022 central air intake with a Hachi-Roku-inspired design. As a bonus, the retro car’s yellow fog lights are present in LED-sustained pixel form.
There’s a widebody kit taking care of the side conversion, while the custom wheels are also on the list (i.e. the GR86 features the old-school Watanabe units).
Round the back, there’s a similar treatment as the one we enjoy at the nose, albeit with the factory taillights being maintained. There’s even a spoiler that somehow replicates the angular look of the Initial D car’s rear hatch (and now you know exactly what type of AE86 the Initial D car is).
Now, in the Instagram post below, digital artist Arnold Verghese (aka arnold_design), who is responsible for the transformation, mentions a host of changes. However, these aren’t the vs-the-2022-GR86 updates we discussed above, but rather compare his new development to an earlier work that gifted the Toyota GT 86 with this sort of attire.
As is the case with Initial D itself, the animation’s soundtrack is of the Eurobeat kind, delivering a complete retro feeling.
The RPM (real project in the making) Potential of this pixel build
Pop-up headlights got left behind almost two decades ago (hey, this little-known Italian supercar has four of them!). They were initially designed to help improve aerodynamics, with both dynamic and fuel efficiency benefits.
And their demise was tied to pedestrian safety and reliability concerns, so we wouldn’t expect a mainstream comeback. However, given the massive aftermarket potential of the GR86 and the serious heritage we covered above, we’ll give this digital proposal an RPM rating of 8/10, so here’s to hoping we see a nostalgic shop out there bringing this JDM delight to real life.